Service to end World War One commemorations in Flanders

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Media captionWelsh visitors joined the nightly sounding of the Last Post at the Menin Gate

Men from Wales who lost their lives in Flanders during World War One have been remembered at a ceremony in Belgium.

About 500 people attended the service at Artillery Wood Cemetery on Sunday, where poet Hedd Wyn is buried.

The sounding of the Last Post dedicated to the Welsh fallen at Menin Gate, in Ypres, marked the end of a weekend of events in the town.

They began on Saturday with the unveiling of a memorial to all Welsh servicemen killed in the Great War.

Welsh language poet Wyn, who was born Ellis Humphrey Evans, was killed in action near to where the new memorial stands in Langemark on 31 July 1917.

The same year he became the posthumous winner of the bardic chair at the 1917 National Eisteddfod for his poem Yr Arwr (The Hero).

Langemark parish priest, Bart Demuymck, opened the service and paid tribute to the poet who he said represented the many soldiers who were never found.

"On this remote place in fields of Flanders so many years ago, this country was over run by ruthless war," he said.

"From all countries of the world, soldiers came here to bring an end to hatred and violence, even from your country.

"Many of them never returned back home and found their last resting place here in the soil. One of then was very well known - Hedd Wyn.

"With him we will remember the many unknown soldiers that are buried here."

Image caption Plaid Cymru MP Elfyn Llwyd spoke at the ceremony at Artillery Wood Cemetery on Sunday
Image caption The ceremony at Artillery Wood Cemetery was held in front of Hedd Wyn's grave
Image caption Cor Rygbi Gogledd Cymru at the site of Hedd Wyn's plaque in Langemark where they performed Calon Lan
Image caption The Welsh visitors took part in the sounding of the Last Post at the Menin Gate memorial
Image caption A ceremony is held there every evening to remember those who lost their lives
Image caption The choir gave a rendition of the hymn Gwahoddiad (I hear thy welcome voice)

Elfyn Llwyd, Plaid Cymru MP for Dwyfor Meirionnydd, which includes the poet's home town of Trawsfynydd, said the purpose of the ceremony was not to glorify war, but to thank the thousands of men and women who lost their lives for their country.

"Today in Flanders we have the great privilege of having the opportunity to thank those thousands of men and young women for their ultimate sacrifice.

"Not in celebration but as an act of tribute to those brave young people who gave their future to allow us ours.

"By honouring the memory of those brave men and women we can learn great lessons, lessons it is our duty to pass on to the next generation.

"Hedd Wyn was iconic, he's part of our national consciousness but he also represents a lost generation of brave and gifted young Welsh people," he said.

"Hedd Wyn and our lost generation, may they rest in peace. We thank you from the bottom of our hearts."

Image caption A plaque dedicated to Hedd Wyn

Members of Cor Rygbi Gogledd Cymru (The North Wales Rugby Choir) performed three songs, including the Welsh hymn Cwm Rhondda, accompanied by harpist Dylan Cernyw.

The ceremony ended with a prayer for peace, before the crowd broke into a spontaneous rendition of the Welsh national anthem.

A short ceremony followed at a plaque dedicated to Wyn in the community of Hagebos (Iron Cross).

Fraser Savage travelled from Llangollen to attend this weekend's remembrance events.

Mr Savage said: "The level of interest (in the Welsh Memorial in Flanders) piqued my interest and about the war in general.

"My great grandfather lost his leg here, my wife's great grandfather lost his arm and my great grandfather's brother died.

"I have seen records and letters of their time at war at home and thought it's nice to come and see where it happened and pay my respects."

Hundreds later gathered for the sounding of the Last Post at the Menin Gate, a ritual played out every evening on the same spot since 1928.

In autumn a memorial garden will be created around the stone cromlech to complete what is a lasting reminder of the sacrifice made by the people of Wales who fought in the First World War.

On Saturday, about 1,000 people had gathered to see the unveiling of a lasting monument to Welsh soldiers who died in World War One in Flanders.

The cromlech built in Langemark, Belgium, marked the 100th anniversary of the war's outbreak and followed years of campaigning by those who wanted a permanent dedication to the fallen.

It is estimated 40,000 soldiers, sailors and airmen from Wales died during the 1914 to 1918 war.

First Minister Carwyn Jones unveiled the monument.

Image caption First Minister Carwyn Jones unveiled the monument at Saturday's service

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